(Photo above: Does US fan favorite Shaun White have what it takes to take a spot on the podium at the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics?)
The 2014 Olympics were the first time that the U.S. failed to earn a medal in men’s snowboard halfpipe. Shaun White is determined to avenge his fourth-place finish from Sochi though, and there are several other riders who could be in the medal conversation if they make the team. But making the team is easier said than done because the U.S. is stacked with talented competitors.
We’ll start with the most obvious name here. As long as he stays healthy, it would be a huge upset to somehow see the two-time Olympic gold medalist not make the 2018 team. It’s hard to find a rider who can match his amplitude, let alone his bag of tricks. Even though he placed fourth at the last Olympics and finished behind Scotty James at several events last season, Shaun once again looks like the gold-medal favorite. His run from last season’s U.S. Open, with included both the cab double cork 1440 and the double McTwist 1260, is probably a good indicator of what to expect this year, though something new is always a possibility with him.
The Idaho native has quietly become one of Team USA’s most consistent halfpipe riders. Given how often he’s been landing on podiums, it’s fair to consider him a legitimate medal contender for PyeongChang if he makes the team. One of the most technical riders in the field, Josey oftens goes heavy on switch tricks in his runs, which is just one of the things that differentiate his runs from everyone else’s. He ended last season ranked third, behind only Scotty James and Shaun White, in the WST halfpipe standings.
Any number of riders could be listed here — the U.S. team is really, really deep. But the older Ferguson brother stands out for his impeccable style. In 2016, he had second-place finishes at X Games and the Burton U.S. Open. Last season, he was fourth at the Olympic test event, which was held at the PyeongChang halfpipe, and that was the top American result behind Shaun White. He's been working on a deeper bag of tricks too, as seen in his Hail Mary film, including a switch double backside rodeo and switch McTwists. Ben’s younger brother, Gabe, will also be attempting to make the Olympic team.
Other Names to Watch
Four years ago, Greg Bretz pulled off a stunning victory at Dew Tour that helped him book his ticket to Sochi. That Olympic team in 2014 also included Danny Davis and Taylor Gold, both of whom are once again contenders. Louie Vito missed the cut last time but finished fifth in his lone Olympic appearance in 2010.
Matt Ladley is also one to watch as he claimed gold and silver medals in his last two X Games Aspen competitions. Ryan Wachendorfer turned some heads last season after finishing second at the Mammoth Grand Prix. Toby Miller, who is just 17 and often trains alongside Shaun White, finished sixth at Winter Games New Zealand in September and was the top American in that contest.
Women’s Snowboard Halfpipe
This has traditionally been one of Team USA’s strongest events since snowboarding was added to the Olympics. Since 2002, Americans have won gold in three of the last four Winter Games. Those three gold medals were all earned by different riders too, showcasing the depth of this team.
Unfortunately the 2014 champion, Kaitlyn Farrington, will not be defending her title — she was forced to retire from competitive snowboarding a few years ago because of a degenerative spine condition called congenital cervical stenosis. But the 2002 and 2006 gold medalists are both contenders for the 2018 Olympic team, and a potential new face to the Olympics, Chloe Kim, gives the U.S. a great shot at making it four-for-five in this event.
It’s hard to find anyone who would disagree that Chloe is the best in the world right now. She was the first woman to do back-to-back 1080s in the halfpipe, and at 17 years old, she’s just getting started. She’s got amplitude, she’s got style, and she’s got some unique tricks like the switch method. The reigning WST halfpipe champion is the favorite for gold in PyeongChang.
Though she’s twice as old as Chloe Kim, Kelly is showing no signs of slowing down. She’s long been an innovator in the sport and still has the incredible amplitude that we’ve come to expect from her halfpipe runs. She’s hoping to make her fifth consecutive Olympic team and then add to her medal collection. Currently, Kelly is the most decorated Olympic snowboarder of all-time with three total medals (a gold medal from 2002 and two bronze medals).
Maddie is another 17-year-old gunning for a spot on the Olympic team. She’s been improving each year and has now turned into a regular podium contender. Among her notable results recently were third-place finishes at the Burton U.S. Open in March and Winter Games New Zealand in September. She’s got quite a few inverted tricks in her arsenal.
Other Names to Watch
Hannah Teter is the 2006 Olympic champion. She’s always had great amplitude and some technical tricks. In her three Olympic appearances, she finished first (2006), second (2010) and fourth (2014). Another rider with Olympic experience is Elena Hight, who was a member of the 2006 and 2010 teams. She’s coming off a season in which she finally earned the first X Games gold medal of her career.
Arielle Gold made the Olympic team in 2014 but didn’t get to compete in Sochi after slamming in practice and dislocating her shoulder. She’s yet another rider with podium potential. Also worth keeping an eye on is 20-year-old Zoe Kalapos, who was ranked 12th in the World Snowboard Tour halfpipe standings last season and won a silver medal at the junior world championships in 2014.